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Equality Florida 'deeply disappointed' in Rick Scott for not using LGBT to describe Pulse victims

Orlando Police officer Michael Napolitano was one of several people recognized during Florida Gov. Rick Scott's speech Tuesday to a joint session of the Florida Legislature. Napolitano responded to the Pulse night club massacre in June 2016 and took a bullet in his Kevlar helmet.
Published Mar. 8, 2017

Advocacy group Equality Florida appreciated Gov. Rick Scott's focus on the Pulse night club massacre during his State of the State address.

Scott sympathized with the victims' families and thanked first reponders and law enforcement. But Equality Florida public policy director Hannah Willard said it wasn't enough, because he "failed to acknowledge the LGBTQ community in any way."

"While we are glad the governor spotlighted the Pulse tragedy, we are deeply disappointed that when talking about the worst anti-LGBTQ attack in our nation's history, our governor failed to acknowledge the LGBTQ community in any way," she said in a statement. "Gov. Scott spoke about the horror our state experienced in the wake of the attack, the heroism of Orlando's first responders, and the pain of families who lost loved ones. What we didn't hear was any mention of the LGBTQ community targeted in this murderous rampage which occurred on Latin night."

The group used the omission to call attention to HB 623/SB 666, which adds sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class in Florida's civil rights law.

While Scott did not make an explicit LGBT reference, he once used the word "partner" to describe an interaction with a victim at the hospital: "I met with an injured victim whose TV was turned off in his hospital room. His family needed to wait to tell him that his partner had been killed and did not want him to find out from the news."

Scott recounted the days after the Pulse attack to urge lawmakers to set aside $6 million for counterterrorism operations. Here's the full context of what he said:

Nothing could have prepared me for the horror we saw on June 12, 2016, when a terrorist inspired by ISIS stormed into Pulse and senselessly killed 49 innocent people. This was a horrible terrorist attack and 49 brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends and spouses were murdered.

The days I spent in Orlando following the shooting will always be with me. I talked to many parents who lost their children. I remember sitting with one mom who recounted her son's last 48 hours on earth and how he died a hero because he was trying to save a friend's life. I met with an injured victim whose TV was turned off in his hospital room. His family needed to wait to tell him that his partner had been killed and did not want him to find out from the news and I went to wakes and funerals to mourn with families as they said their final good-byes. The hardest thing I have ever had to do as Governor is try to find the words to console a parent who lost their child, and I truly cannot imagine the grief of losing a child or a grandchild.

Amid the horror and terror of that night, we also saw what bravery and heroism looks like. We saw so many first responders rush to the scene. First responders like SWAT team member Officer Michael Napolitano with the Orlando Police Department. Officer Napolitano, please stand.

Without fear or hesitation, Officer Napolitano and his fellow SWAT members confronted the terrorist and during the stand-off, his Kevlar helmet stopped a bullet which saved his life. Officer Napolitano, we are proud to call you a Floridian. Thank you for your courage to serve in the face of evil, and thank you for fighting for Florida families.

I would like to also welcome Orlando Police Chief John Mina and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings. Both helped respond to the terrorist attack at Pulse. Chief Mina and Sheriff Demings, you and your team of brave law enforcement officers have kept families safe and secure. On behalf of all Florida families, please tell your officers and deputies that we are proud of them and job well done!

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